Lessons learned, three years after high school graduation

Corrine and Lily
Corrine and Lily Jaquith

Congratulations to the 2014 graduates. More specifically, congratulations to my younger sister Corinne, who is among the many students who graduated from Edmonds Woodway High School on Friday.

I have returned to my alma mater several times over the last three years, to pick up my diploma, to visit former teachers or to be a “parent” volunteer for my sister’s cheer events.

None of those visits could have prepared me for the onslaught of nostalgia I experienced as I watched my sister walk across the same stage I did in an identical purple robe.

“I do believe I have been changed for the better… Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

Those lyrics come from “For Good,” from the Stephen Schwartz musical “Wicked.” Graduating seniors Tammy Nguyen and Rahwa Beyan sang the incredibly appropriate song at Friday night’s graduation.

Though it has only been three years since I wore that purple robe, I can say with certainty that I have changed for the better. I would argue that all change is for the better, in the end.

When I entered Edmonds-Woodway High School for the first time in 2007, I had no intention of going to college. I was going to be an actress and go straight to Los Angeles after graduating.

But, as it is for many students, I met a teacher who changed my life and I changed my mind. I wanted to teach students science, the way my favorite teacher, Rebecca Heckinger, did.

By the beginning of my junior year, Western Washington University was only going to be a back up to the University of Washington. That was until I visited WWU and fell in love with the view from the dining hall that looks out onto Bellingham Bay.

I cannot emphasize enough the impact attending WWU has had on me.

I’ve been the president of a club, I’ve served on a statewide association executive board and I have become a part of an extraordinary group of friends who I truly believe could change the world.

I changed my major from education to journalism and I switched my minor about as many times as you can. I very nearly switched schools when I wanted to go into broadcast journalism.

When I finally settled on a journalism degree with a concentration in public relations and a minor in political science, and to continue at Western Washington University, I knew I was making the right decision because of all the wrong ones I had made earlier.

All of this was completely unimaginable to the girl who stuck out her tongue at her parents while she waited to cross the stage and receive her high school diploma.

Many of the students who graduated Friday night will also change their major, end up switching colleges or realize more school wasn’t the right choice for them.

They will all reach new heights, feel new lows and end up somewhere they never imagined, as I have.

The EWHS principal told the students in her welcoming speech to make goals and stick to them no matter what. I disagree.

If I stuck to the goals I had when I was 17, I would be stuck in a toxic relationship, struggling to get through math classes in order to get my teaching degree.

Goals are important, but what an individual feels and wants out of life is more important. Goals can and should change as a person grows.

If I have learned anything in the past three years, really in the past 20 years, it’s that big decisions should be based on what you want. Not what you think you should do, not based on fear and most importantly not because someone else wants it for you.

I will tell my sister this whenever she calls me from Arizona State, looking for advice. I will remind myself when I’m trying to solidify my post-graduation plans and going on from there.

Congratulations again to the class of 2014. You have a lot more change ahead of you — enjoy the ride.

Lily Jaquith will be a senior this fall at Western Washington University. She is the calendar editor for My Edmonds News.

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